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Profiles of our South Asian community

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/3/2012 (1969 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Naranjan Dhalla

Dhalla left India for the United States in 1961, and came to Winnipeg from St. Louis in 1968, to join the University of Manitoba's faculty of medicine. Since then he has been honoured with the Order of Canada, Order of Manitoba, Order of the Buffalo Hunt by the Province of Manitoba and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He came in second to former Premier Duff Roblin in the Free Press's Greatest Manitoban contest. He was president and secretary general of the International Society for Heart Research, is executive director of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, and is editor in chief of the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.

Ash Modha, CEO and president of Mondetta Clothing.

Ash Modha, CEO and president of Mondetta Clothing.

"I remember thinking, 'This is a very clean and calm city.' I was delighted. All these years later I've been offered jobs around the world, but I've never wanted to leave Winnipeg."

Ajit Kaur Deol

Deol came to Canada in 1967. She first went to northwestern Ontario, where she developed the Caroline McMorland School for the Mentally Handicapped. She and her family moved to Beausejour, where she worked as a resource teacher, continuing at Maples Collegiate in Winnipeg. She also volunteered for numerous community organizations and in 1985, was the first female president of a Sikh Gurudwara temple in North America. She is on the board of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. She was honoured with the Order of Manitoba in 2002, as well as the Outstanding Community Service Award, and an award celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sikhs in Canada.

Daya Gupta

Gupta came to Thompson with his wife, Chander, in 1971, then moved to Winnipeg in 1972. He is the chief eye surgeon at the Gupta Eye Centre and medical director of the Ultravision Eye Laser Centre. With his wife, he donated $1 million to the CNIB in 2010.

"The trend in India was to go to the U.K. and then go back to India. We wanted to make a reasonable amount of money to start a practice in India, but we fell in love with Winnipeg."

He also has fond memories of Thompson.

"It was the first time we went skiing and fishing."


Chander Kanta Gupta

She is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Manitoba and the only recognized uro-gynecologist in the province. She works at the St. Boniface, Victoria and Seven Oaks general hospitals, as well as the Health Sciences Centre. She promotes the province's Hindu community and has sat on the board of the India School of Dance, Music and Theatre. She was honoured with the Order of Manitoba in 2005, and the Manitoba Medical Association's physician of the year award in 2004.

"It was beautiful in Thompson. And we definitely fell in love with Winnipeg. Manitoba has friendly people. They welcome newcomers. We couldn't imagine moving anywhere else."


Hemant Shah

Shah came to Winnipeg in 1972, after his elder brother sponsored him.

"When I came here, people still thought of India as a snake-charming country and a slum. But this is my adopted home and I want Manitoba to be the richest province in the world. It would be great if all immigrants felt that way."

He develops markets in India for Manitoba products and was the first Indo-Canadian to receive the Distinguished Non-resident Indian award from an NGO in India, given to people who exhibit "selfless service to the society at large," while continuing to keep a permanent link with their former country. He is deputy director of sales and marketing with Winnipeg equipment manufacturer Cubex.


Digvir Jayas

Jayas came from India to Winnipeg in 1980 to take his masters degree in agricultural engineering at the University of Manitoba. He returned to India and then went to the University of Saskatchewan. He was hired by the University of Manitoba as an assistant professor in 1985. He rose through the ranks and is now vice-president (research and international).

"I grew up on a farm in India, and I had seen a lot of grain being spoiled post-harvest. I was interested in working to understand how we could mitigate it and the U of M had a program in that area."

Later, coming to Winnipeg, he said a former professor told him about the cold, which he doesn't mind, but he didn't know about something else.

"He didn't tell me about the mosquitos. But for me it has been a very good city and the University of Manitoba has been the best employer I could ever have expected."


Bidhu Jha

Jha is the NDP MLA for Radisson in northeast Winnipeg. He was born in India and came to Winnipeg in 1970. He has a mechanical engineering degree and is the former owner and CEO of Optimum Trading Corporation.

"When I flew in, all the trees were lit with Christmas lights and the white snow was visible from the sky -- it looked like heaven to me."


Mohinder Saran

Saran came from India to Vancouver in 1970. But when he couldn't find a job, friends convinced him to come to Winnipeg a year later. First working at a mattress factory, he later was chief power engineer for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation at Red River College. He served as president of the Sikh Society of Manitoba, helped open the first Gurdwara in the province and was vice-president of the India Association of Manitoba. He was elected under the NDP banner in the Maples in 2007 and re-elected in the last election.

"My first impression of Winnipeg was really good. In Vancouver there was so much racial discrimination, but this was far better and far better accepted."

Ruby Dhalla

Dhalla was born in Winnipeg to a family who immigrated here from India. She wrote to Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi when she was 10 years old, after becoming upset about violence at the Golden Temple in the Punjab. Gandhi responded by making reference to it at a press conference just before she was assassinated. Later, Dhalla moved to Toronto where, after graduating as a chiropractor, she co-owned a chain of chiropractor clinics. She ran successfully for the federal Liberals in Brampton-Springdale in 2004, and was re-elected twice before being defeated in the last election.


Kaval Chohan

Chohan came to Winnipeg in 1963 after studying in England. He joined the Winnipeg School Division and later became a principal in the inner city.

"There was an ad in the London Times that they were short of teachers. I applied and they sent me a contract and I haven't moved since. I just like Winnipeg. It is small enough, but at the same time has everything."

But he was a little worried when he arrived at the air terminal then.

"I'd just come from London's airport full of hustle and bustle and I come here and it was a little terminal that you walked to from your plane. I couldn't believe what I was doing here."

He was a director and president of the International Centre. After retiring from the school division, he volunteered as an auxiliary constable in the immigration and passport section with the RCMP. He was the division's volunteer of the year in 2001 and was one of three people chosen to meet and speak with Prince Charles during his Canadian visit. He has served 10 years on the RCMP Commanding Officer's advisory committee on cultural diversity.


Amarjeet Warraich

Warraich came from India in 1972. He owns the Montcalm Hotel, is part owner of the Balmoral Hotel and currently owns and is renovating the former Maryland Hotel. He has been president of the Punjabi Cultural Society, the Manitoba Sikh and Cultural Seniors Centre and the India Association of Manitoba.

"When you're young, you want to try something new and a new experience. It was cold when I got here. I was amazed and shocked. But my cousin was here in Manitoba when I came and to this day we always joke with him that, 'you brought the whole family here.'"


Manju Lodha

Lodha is an accomplished artist in Winnipeg. She was born in India and came to Canada in 1972, living in Toronto, Calgary and Pinawa before moving to Winnipeg in 2000.

"I find Winnipeg is familiar," says the painter, whose works fuse elements of Canadian and Indian culture. "I love the food. I love the Prairie skies. It is home now."


Pamela Rebello

Rebello came to the United States in 1963 and came to Winnipeg with her husband in 1968. She founded the India School of Dance, Music and Theatre in 1980. She was chairwoman of the Manitoba Intercultural Council from 1987 to 1991. She has been honoured with the Order of Manitoba and the Canada 125 Medal in 1993.

"I thought this was an ideal place to raise children. The warmth I get from the people came to me before the winter came... Winnipeg is now home. It's funny, when I go to India now, I say, 'I have to go home' and I mean Winnipeg. I've lived most of my life now in North America."

Divya Mehra

Mehra is a first generation Indo-Canadian. Her father fled with his family from his home town after it was partitioned and given to Pakistan. She is an artist who went to schools of art at both the University of Manitoba and Columbia University in New York.

"My work investigates the construction (and misrepresentation) of cultural identity, while making reference to layered divisions, and the disparity and exploitation of power. Over the years, I have come to realize that my experiences are not singular, rather they echo those of many members of the South Asian diaspora."


Shahina Siddiqui

Siddiqui came to Winnipeg from Pakistan in 1976, after having visited her sister in Brandon two years before.

"We were looking in Manhattan at the time, and my sister wanted to show me their big city of Winnipeg. Honestly, when we came, I felt Winnipeg has a soul. I told my husband this is where we would raise our family and he laughed... six months later ,we got the immigration."

She admits she loves winters here: "The snow is so romantic."

She is now president of the Islamic Social Services Association Inc.


Kirit Patel

Patel is an assistant professor in international development studies at the University of Winnipeg. He came to Canada from India in 2000 as a PhD student in Guelph and then moved here in 2007. He is participating in a research project that focuses on food security.

"I love Winnipeg. It's a great place to live and raise a family. It's a little cold, but the people are warm."


Ibrahim (Obby) Khan

Khan, an offensive lineman with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, is of Pakistani descent. He was born in Ottawa and started playing in the CFL with the Ottawa Renegades. He is a three-time recipient of the Cal Murphy "Heart of a Legend" award, which goes to the Blue Bomber who shows outstanding sportsmanship and dedication to the community.


Ashok Dilawri

Dilawri is owner and CEO of the Dilawri Group at the Waverley auto mall. He moved from India to the United States in 1972, working there and in Canada for several hotel chains. After working with his uncle in Ottawa at a rental car business, he came to Winnipeg to open an American Motors franchise in 1984. Within a year, he bought the dealership and has purchased others through the years.


Sowmya Narasimhan

Narasimhan is a doctor originally from India who arrived just last month after living in England for 10 years. She works in internal medicine at the Grace Hospital and St. Boniface General Hospital.

"Everybody at the hospitals have been very friendly. I also like the attitude that everybody gets out and still do things even when there is two feet of snow on the ground. That didn't happen in England."


Mohinder Singh Dhillon

Dhillon came to Winnipeg in 1967. He first worked at Bristol Aerospace before creating his own real estate company, R&R Realty. He has worked with the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council to welcome thousands of immigrants and refugees to the province. He is also on the advisory board for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Winnipeg in 2008.


Ash Modha

Modha is CEO and president of Mondetta Clothing. He came to Canada with his family from East Africa in the 1970s. With his brother, a cousin and two others, they started Mondetta in 1986. The clothing is best known for its world flag theme.


Kamal Mehra

Mehra was born in the part of India that became Pakistan, so his family moved to New Delhi when he was a child. He came to Canada in 1967 and moved to Winnipeg two years later, after being accepted into the University of Manitoba. While working to earn his civil engineering degree, he worked at various restaurants. His first job was as a survey inspector with the city, but then he opened his first restaurant, India Gardens. He later opened the East India Company, the city's first upscale East Indian restaurant, and a restaurant in Ottawa.

"I always thought that Winnipeg would be a good place to do business and raise a family.''


Fred Harinder Sandhu

Sandhu came to Canada from India with his mother and brother in 1962, following his father, who was a high school teacher in Mayerthorpe, Alta. They lived there until 1970, before moving to Ghana. Sandhu came back to finish high school in Alberta and came to this province after being accepted into the University of Manitoba's law school. After graduating, he joined Legal Aid Manitoba and worked in Dauphin and Winnipeg. While in Dauphin, he was founding president of the Dauphin Boys and Girls Club and director of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre. He was appointed a provincial court judge in 2003.

"My name being unpronounceable to my new and wintry Canadian friends and schoolmates, and unable to speak English in protest, they decided to call me 'Fred' in honour of the new TV colour cartoon -- Fred Flintstone."

First impression of Winnipeg? "My impressions were really just that of any other Canadian moving here... cold in the winter, magnificent in the summer."

Surekha Joshi

Joshi came to Canada from India 25 years ago to take part in arranged marriage to a man who worked at Bristol Aerospace. Her husband died 15 years later, but she stayed in Winnipeg. She has a MBA in marketing and works at the RBC. She has volunteered in different positions at the India Association of Manitoba for 21 years and is the organization's current president. She has been the India pavilion coordinator at Folklorama, and has volunteered at Winnipeg Harvest and the Hindu Temple.


Thambirajah Balachandra

Balachandra was a pathologist in Sri Lanka before coming to Canada in 1984. His credentials weren't recognized here, so at first, he worked as an orderly in a Toronto hospital and a security guard. He was accepted into the University of Manitoba's medical school for a pathology residency and, after graduating, worked in Brandon, then St. Boniface General Hospital. He was appointed chief medical examiner in 2004. He has been reappointed twice, with his current appointment ending in 2016. He has also been president of the Tamil Cultural Society and the Hindu Society of Manitoba.

First impression of Winnipeg? "I stayed here because it is a great place to live. People here are very nice. Everybody greets you. It is friendlier than Toronto."


Deepak Joshi

Chief operations officer, City of Winnipeg

The second-highest ranking official in the City of Winnipeg's 8,000-member workforce, Deepak Joshi is responsible for the day-to-day operations of every city department, from water and waste to golf services. Joshi was promoted in 2011 after previously serving as deputy chief administrative officer, director of planning, property and development and the city's inspections manager.


Jaspal and Karampaul Sandhu

This father-and-son team are co-owners of Winnipeg real estate development firm Sandhu Developments Inc., which has undertaken four condominium projects in the city in the last six years. The latest is a proposed high-rise condominium tower on the former Restaurant Dubrovnik site near Assiniboine Avenue and Carlton Street.

Karampaul said his parents grew up in the Punjab city of Amritsar, and moved to Uganda in 1982. In 1990, they moved their family -- Karampaul was 12 years old at the time -- to Manitoba. Karampaul said his father was a psychology professor and owned a construction company in Uganda. When he arrived in Manitoba, he purchased the Libau Inn in Libau, which he operated for a few years before purchasing the McLaren Hotel in Winnipeg. He and a partner ran the McLaren until about 2002, when they sold it and purchased the St. Regis Hotel on Smith Street, which they still own and operate.

Starting in 2000, Jaspal teamed up with other local developers on a number of real estate development projects in the city, including the Aspen Meadows condo development in 2004. The following year, Karampaul joined his father's numbered company, and in 2010 they renamed the firm Sandhu Developments Inc. Now president of the firm, Karampaul oversees day-to-day operations of the company.

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